Monday 11 March 2019

Tales of boat ownership - and pretty flowers

Not on the boat

A bit of an update . . .

After the short trip in the last blog it was time to head over to London where Mike was attending the General Synod session from Wednesday to Saturday. Christine came along as well - she has taken to using the opportunity of Travelodge charging per room rather than per person so it only costs her breakfast. This means that she can explore more of central London which is conveniently available either by walking or by public transport - the hotel is only a few minutes walk from Waterloo.

We booked a taxi to take us into town rather than leaving the car in the station car park - it is about the same, bearing in mind we would also need a taxi back to the marina on Saturday - but a bit simpler.

We just made the connection in Birmingham as our train up from Droitwich was rather late it was already late when we boarded it and the  ran even slower, allegedly because it was behind a stopping train, but since there were no more stations after they made that announcement, it rang a bit hollow!

The run down to Euston was just fine and although we both walked to the Underground, we took different routes from there as Mike only just had enough time to arrive in Westminster for his first meeting. He managed it, even though he mistakenly thought that Green Park station was to the south of the park rather than the north!

Mike's meetings were quite exhausting although interesting. Christine will no doubt take the opportunity to add an update about what she managed to do during her stay!

Edit (26 March): So far she has not been back to add her details but has commented on (AKA complained about) the fact that her photos have not yet been used! Apart from knowing that she did visit Tate Britain (hence the image of one of the paintings) you will just have to make do with the pix for now . . .

On Friday was made an arrangement to meet up with Joanna, Ellie, Alice and Jess for a meal at Pizza Express near Waterloo. It has already been planned that Christine would take the two younger grand daughters to visit the London Aquarium - tickets already booked ahead.

Mike left his meeting a few minutes early in order to meet with them all - he arrived no long after they had been shown to a table but not yet ordered any food.

This year, Mike's meetings ran through to Saturday afternoon as an experiment (to see if it was any easier for some members) and he and Christine arranged to meet at Church House. They travelled on the Underground to Euston arriving quicker than expected so there was time to have a cup of tea before the train was ready to board.

The journey back to Droitwich was fine, albeit just a few minutes late. We left booking a taxi until we knew we were catching the second train but were surprised to find that the firm that we have used previously (the largest in town) was fully booked until much later in the evening! Fortunately another company just managed to squeeze us in.

Sunday morning we went to St Peter's church where we have been before and then used the afternoon do do a few small items of work on the boat as well as cleaning, packing ready for a prompt start on the trip back to Cornwall on Monday morning. We did, however, have to wait until we could talk with the marina office to make final arrangements for several specialists to visit whilst we were away. The annual engine check and service had been done just before we came up this time and there were no reports of problems.

The next main task was to be for the boat to be pulled out of the water so that the hull bottom could be blacked. We also arranged for an engineer to check the prop and to repair if necessary - we knew that one of the blades at least has had too close an encounter with the detritus that routinely occupies the unseen underwater of canals! We had also booked a painter as the marina only do the blacking and, cosmetically, we wanted the black above the waterline re-done (we did it ourselves at the end of the first year) as well as the tunnel bands.

Switch now to yesterday. The day started bright and sunny - but with a forecast that heralded storms and rain for the rest of the week, Christine suggested we take time out to visit Caerhays Castle Gardens on the south coast (of Cornwall). It is famous for its huge collection of Rhododendrons and magnolias, some camellias and a few azaleas but is only open in the spring whilst the blossom is at its best.

As we were driving there we had a phone call from Nick at the marina. He had already pulled Alchemy out of the water and started to pressure wash the hull in preparation for painting (we were all already a bit nervous about the weather later in the week so a good start was needed) Alas, he found that the hull paint was lifting off in large pieces. His advice was that we could either continue with the blacking as planned, but that would not last for long, but that it really needs better surface preparation for a complete replacement of the black paint, both under and above the waterline - not a cheap option.

The use of the phone for talking as well as running the sat nav (we were in the small car, better to cope with the narrow lanes down to Caerhays) and in the process managed to confuse the sat nav so that we took a rather long way to arrive at our destination! Once we parked by the beach we discovered, as is still all to often in Cornwall, that away from towns and high ground, mobile signals are poor and neither of our phones could find a signal. As a result we had to return back up the hill to the top of the cliff in order to ring back to Droitwich and talk through a plan.

As it now stands, the boat is back in the water with no new paint and not too  much of the existing having been removed whilst we work out how best to proceed. It seems very likely that we will need to schedule a further time out of the water when Nick can arrange for a specialist to take the hull back to a good surface. We will keep you all posted once we have more information!

We have also arranged to have two flexible surface mounted solar panels fitted but. beyond hearing a week ago that the electrician has taken delivery of them, we have not yet heard how well he has progressed. It should not be too large a task as when the boat was built we had everything installed apart from the panels themselves.

By now it was almost lunch time so we took a stroll across the beach, with the tide well out, and back again to have a bacon roll at the beach cafe. It has a limited range of choices, and not always well reviewed on the fussier of trip web sites, but it suited us today.

We then walked across to the castle, paid our entrance dues and started to follow the red, blue, yellow and green routes. Although a few varieties were already loosing their blossom. most were at there most spectacular. There is a huge variety - the gardens were originally started at the end of the 19C when it was fashionable to collect specimens from the Far East, either by personal visit or though specialist who brought back large quantities to sell to the large estates developing in many parts of the country at that time.

The owner of the castle also became an expert in hybridization and many of the specimens around the gardens were first created here.

Back at the castle we were ready for a cup of tea from their tea rooms - and succumbed to the temptation of a scone/cake as well. By now the sheltered courtyard was just right to catch the sun as was very warm - tempting just to sit and enjoy the freshness of Spring. Eventually we had to make our way back home - slightly shorter than the unplanned diversionary route we followed to get here!

We have included pictures of the gardens - just because we can!

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